Compliance Officers: What They Do and Why They’re in Demand

By Robert Half October 10, 2019 at 10:00am

As businesses work to meet an array of complex compliance requirements, from anti-money laundering laws to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the demand for compliance officers is rising. In the financial services industry, for example, many employers are continually on the lookout for highly experienced compliance professionals to help them keep current with global and domestic regulatory standards.

Because compliance officers can be hard to find in today’s hiring market, many firms are prepared to offer compelling compensation to in-demand candidates. According to the 2020 Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance Professionals, the projected midpoint salary for compliance officers in the United States is $106,250. And chief compliance officers can expect to see a midpoint salary of $175,250 next year.

Download a free copy of Robert Half's latest salary guide here.

What are the typical duties of compliance officers?

Compliance officers are responsible for ensuring their organization complies with government regulations — domestically as well as globally, if applicable — and avoids missteps that could result in hefty fines, legal ramifications and reputation damage. Compliance officers also need to make sure that employees are following internal compliance policies.

Along with assessing financial risks and creating a game plan to handle those potential issues, compliance officers provide regular reports on the effectiveness of a business’s compliance measures. They also advise business leadership on any actions or changes that should be implemented. In many organizations, senior management expects the compliance officer to collaborate as a partner, and demonstrate how compliance is a business priority and can help drive strategy.

Here’s an overview of some typical duties for compliance officers:

  • Developing, implementing and managing an organization’s compliance program
  • Coordinating with federal and state regulators
  • Planning, implementing and overseeing risk-related programs
  • Creating and coordinating proper reporting channels for compliance issues
  • Developing company compliance communications
  • Coordinating and scheduling required compliance training for employees

Skills compliance officers need to succeed

Whether they’re working in a full-time role or on a consulting basis, compliance officers must have strong knowledge of federal and state regulatory guidelines and standards. They also need to monitor accounting and regulatory guidelines as they relate to financial reporting and documentation. In addition, compliance officers should possess knowledge of compliance standards and policies, audit techniques, regulatory issues, and operations and procedures that relate specifically to the company.

Industry experience can be a key attribute as well, particularly in highly regulated areas such as financial services. While the details of specific mandates can be learned, companies can benefit from hiring compliance officers who are knowledgeable about the broader regulatory landscape for their specific sector.

Businesses hiring compliance officers seek professionals with excellent analytical, project management and organizational skills. Candidates should have a minimum of three to five years of experience in regulatory compliance work. A bachelor’s degree in accounting, business, finance or a related field is typically required. Many employers also value a master’s degree in business administration or an in-demand certification such as the CPA credential.

While both financial and business acumen are necessities for compliance officers, these professionals should also have a solid mix of soft skills, including leadership abilities. Expert communication and public speaking skills are needed to facilitate a better organizational understanding of complex regulatory standards. Integrity and a history of ethical decision-making are also essential.

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